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Month: July 2007

I Already Know How the Imaginext Dinosaur War Will Turn Out

My son loves Imaginext Dinosaurs, I mean, really loves them, loves them so much that he wants not just one red Tyrannosaurus Rex but also its partner, the looks-just-the-same-except-for-the-color green Tyrannosaurus Rex. Both are named Razor, by the way, but my son never calls them that. It’s always just “T-rex”. And those T-rexs live, of course, at T-rex Mountain. He loves these dinosaurs, which I suppose are probably the heirs to my old Adventure People from years ago in the 1970’s. And man, I loved those Adventure People.

And the dinosaurs are pretty cool. They move and make noises and stuff like that, but rather than just make them dinosaurs who coexist with each other, Fisher Price has turned it into a battle. From the Fisher Price site –

Imagine…a primitive civilization of humans and dinosaurs, living in a lush, green land. One side—the predators—are using up its natural resources, wiping out everything and everyone that gets in their way. The other side—the ecovores—want to preserve their land. And they’re willing to fight to make that happen.Will the predators succeed in destroying the land, causing their own extinction? Or will the ecovores stop the destruction and make the land a place where dinosaurs and humans can live together peacefully? In the world of Imaginext®, anything is possible!

Is it possible? Really? “If I had a hammer….”

Let me ask you this – did the predators win? Or the ecovores?

I don’t want to give this away, gentle reader, especially if you don’t know how this whole thing ends, but I really, really can’t help myself. I’m sorry. It’s just too difficult to keep such spoilerific information all to myself.

Okay, I’ll say it – they both lost!

Here’s how it happened.

The place is Pangea, and our enemies, the Predators and the Ecovores, are meeting up and about to have one of those mother-of-all battles, you see, and there they were, Razor and Ripper and Slasher and all of their allies, and they were moving in for the kill on Whip, Thunder, Tank and Hammer, when out of the blue, they heard something in the sky. They stopped their running and slashing and biting and looked up, quizzically, to the sky.

“ROWR?”
“ROWRROWR!”
“RUHROWR?”
“RUH…ROWR!”

BANG.

And thus died the Imaginext Dinosaurs as that big comet hit the Earth and destroyed them all. Sadly, they, and their political agendas, were lost in the coming ice age.

Can’t we just let them be toys?

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Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 6 : Charo

Kim and I met Charo at the Dallas Museum of Art several years ago when she came there to hock some new salsa or something for Pace. They had a car outside decorated up by some artist or something and she spoke and played her guitar for a few minutes before a crowd of about one hundred people. Afterwards she took questions, of all things, doing that “Cuchi-cuchi” thing she says every once in awhile. It was goofy and surreal at the same time, knowing that this was that strange unintelligible Spanish woman I’d seen on The Love Boat when I was a kid.

Kim, never one to shirk from making a comment, had the guts to pipe up when she said that she lived on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

“We had our honeymoon there!”

It kind of threw Charo 1Yes, I know Charo does not live in Dallas, but she was there, and we talked to her. So there. off, but hen became excited. She was bonding with the audience, you know. “Oh, did you love it? Where did you stay?”

“South side of the island at a B&B.”

“The B&B’s on Kauai are wonderful, aren’t they?”

“Yes!!!” Kim was so excited.

What was even cooler was she even took a picture with us. She was wearing a red sequined minidress and was completely falling out the thing. We were going to use the picture for our Christmas card (“Merry Christmas from Kim, Glenn and Charo”) but Kim was laughing when the picture was taken and her smile was Joker-esque, so we didn’t use it, but, you know, it’s still a great story.

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What I’m Not Looking Forward to With The Bourne Ultimatum

I like the Jason Bourne movies because they’re gritty and realistic (kinda) 1If you can say anything about these movies it’s that they reignited the James Bond franchise. Daniel Craig is no Pierce Brosnan in Casino Royale. He’s one mean SOB. and Matt Damon is much better as a CIA assassin than I thought he would be. When I first saw the preview for The Bourne Identity I was so-so with it, but in the years following that first knock-out punch I’ve been hooked like a zombie on fresh, delicious human brains. The two films so far have been great, but there are a few things I’m not excited about with this third one.

1) Damon has said no more Bourne films after this one.

I understand what he’s doing here. He wants to be identified with something else besides Jason Bourne 2Maybe he shouldn’t do any more of the Ocean’s movies then, either., but that doesn’t make it any easier.

2) The amazingly cool Brian Cox is gone.

I love Brian Cox. He’s one of the great character actors of his generation and seeing his character Abbott kill himself in The Bourne Supremacy was heartbreaking for me. I was very disappointed when he turned out to be a bad guy because up until that moment that he stabbed his lackey he was just a great amoral character.

3) More shaky camera fight scenes.

One of my big criticisms between the first and second films was the way hand-to-hand combat scenes were filmed. Doug Liman filmed the scene in Bourne’s Paris apartment from about 10 feet back, allowing you to see what was going on with the knife/pen fighting. Paul Greengrass shot the fight scene inside of the house in Germany way too close to the action and with far too many edits for my taste. French director Jean-Luc Godard 3If you don’t know him, Godard was one of the most influential members of the French New Wave movement in film. The New Wavers experimented radically with editing, visual style, and narrative, and the movement has been claimed to influence many movies, from Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde all the way to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Wes Andersen’s The Royal Tenenbaums. said “Every edit is a lie,” and it’s true. I would have preferred a more continuous feel to the combat than a shaky pile up of visuals.

4) No more Franka Potente.

Unless some miracle happened in that Indian river, Marie’s not coming back. That’s too bad.

And unless there’s a huge plot change, this is how it will all go down – the CIA will find Bourne somewhere and try to dispose of him. Bourne will rely on his training and smarts and will outwit all of them and overcome his adversaries. In the end he will be more paranoid than ever.

I’m sure it will be good, though. We’ll see.

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Brush With Local Greatness, Vol. 5 : Troy Dungan

It was Parent’s Weekend at Baylor, probably around 1993. The big hullabaloo was going on over at Founders Mall – parents meeting teachers, kids introducing their moms and dads to Professor So-And-So, and there I was just ambling through without my parents, who hadn’t come this time around. If you’d seen me then on that warm early October day, you’d probably have said, “Why is that dirty hippie walking through here?” I was not the clean cut person I became later. That’s the trouble with people; they change.

And so that dirty hippie was loping through the hordes, probably going somewhere in a slow and “keep on truckin'” kinda way, when I saw him. He was the weatherman that I’d grown up with, and I knew his daughter was attending his alma mater at the same time that I was. His trademark bow ties were legendary around Dallas from the first time I remember him and he wore them every newscast, no matter what. He’d always been short, you could tell that by comparing him to the other news anchors on the channel 8 sound stage, but I didn’t know he’d be that short. I’m talking like Danny Devito height, no kidding, the man was SHORT. Like 5′ 2″ or something.

As I brushed by him (literally) he seemed startled. I mumbled, “Hi there.” He didn’t say anything, just sorta glared.

I thought, “Man, what a jerk.”

And that was my close encounter of the weather kind with Troy Dungan. He’d started working for WFAA on July 19, 1976, and he’s retiring tomorrow, July 18, 2007. From what his collegues say he’s a swell guy. I’m sure he is and was just probably scared of that dirty hippie kid way back when. So long, Troy. Happy trails.

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President Margaret Spellings?

Ha! Just kidding! Margaret Spellings is the current Secretary of Education and isn’t president. Come on, silly, what were you thinking?

So…how does the Secretary of Education skip all of that running for President and the election and just become President of the United States? Why, have everyone in front of you in the line of presidential succession die! Want to know the current line of succession? 1I got this list from infoplease. Well, here it is –

  1. Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate
  2. Speaker of the House of Representatives
  3. President of the Senate pro tempore 2The President of the Senate pro tempore is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate and the highest-ranking senator. The current President of the Senate pro tempore is Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia).
  4. Secretary of State
  5. Secretary of the Treasury
  6. Secretary of Defense
  7. Attorney General
  8. Secretary of the Interior
  9. Secretary of Agriculture
  10. Secretary of Commerce
  11. Secretary of Labor
  12. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  14. Secretary of Transportation
  15. Secretary of Energy
  16. Secretary of Education
  17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  18. Secretary of Homeland Security 3On March 9, 2006, President George W. Bush signed HR 3199 which renewed the Patriot Act and amended the Presidential Succession Act to include the Secretary of Homeland Security in the line of succession after the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
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The Birth of the MoonPie

The MoonPie, the delicacy of choice for working men across America during the first half of the 20th Century, was created in 1917 by Earl Mitchell while working his territory of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia for The Chattanooga Bakery of Chattanooga, Tennessee. As the story goes, Mr. Mitchell was visiting a company store that catered to the coal miners of the surrounding area when he engaged some of them in conversation. While chatting with them he asked what they might enjoy for a snack during a grueling, filthy day of mining. They told Mitchell that they wanted something that would be solid and filling.

“About how big?” Mr. Mitchell asked them. At the time the moon was rising, so a miner held out his hands, framing the moon in them and said, “About that big!”

He headed back to the bakery after making his rounds and saw some of the workers dipping graham crackers into marshmallow and laying them on window sills to harden. With a concept for the perfect working man’s snack, he added another cookie and a coating of chocolate and sent them back for the workers to try. When the response they got was favorable he sent samples around with their other salespeople, too. The MoonPie was a hit.

The usual way to enjoy a MoonPie in the 1950’s was with an RC Cola, which, when couple with a MoonPie, cost about 10 cents. RC was preferred since the RC bottle was a little larger than that of Coca-Cola. The two became inseparable and was often referred to as “The Working Man’s Lunch.” 1The info for this piece came from the maker of one half of the Working Man’s Lunch – The Chattanooga Bakery.

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Galusha Pennypacker, the Youngest Brigadier General in U.S. Army History

Galusha Pennypacker 1I got most of the info for this piece from All Biographies and the remaining info from Wikipedia. came from a long line of military men. His father had fought in the Mexican-American War and his grandfather in the Revolution. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Galusha was scheduled to attend West Point. Instead he enlisted as a quartermaster in the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment. It was 1861.

He refused an appointment of first lieutenant in his company on account of his age (he was 16 at the time) and instead was made a non-commissioned staff-officer. Upon entry of his unit into the war he was promoted to captain of Company A, 97th Pennsylvania Volunteers on August 22, 1861. Roughly a month later he was promoted again, this time to major.

He remained with the 97th for many years, where he was well respected and liked by his men. By the time 1864 rolled around, and after seeing much action and combat, he had been promoted to colonel.

Pennypacker’s greatest moment of the war came at the second battle of Fort Fisher 2Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War. It protected the vital trading routes of the port at Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1861 until its capture by the Union in 1865. The fort was located on one of Cape Fear River’s two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean on what is today known as Pleasure Island. on January 15, 1865, where he was severely wounded while crossing enemy lines. Because of his bravery in leading his men and his wounding in the battle he was awarded Congressional Medal of Honor with a citation reading –

“He gallantly led the charge over a traverse and planted the colors of one of his regiments thereon; was severely wounded.”

After the battle Pennypacker was given a brevet 3A brevet promotion is a temporary authorization for a person to hold a higher rank. It happened frequently in the Civil War. promotion to Brigadier General on January 15, 1865. After convalescing, he received a full promotion to brigadier general at age 20, making him the youngest officer to hold the rank of general in the United States Army to this day. He was brevetted, once again, to major general on March 13, 1865. He was not yet 21 years old.

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Is Laura Linney a Good Bad Actress or a Bad Good Actress?

Laura Linney is, according to many people who know more than I do, supposedly a good actress, 1She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress as well as won many other acting awards. but it’s hard for me to see what all the fuss is about. When I see her I think she’s either just alright in a role or downright wrong for the part. It’s probably just me, but she seems to have this snooty arrogance to her, like if you met her at a party in New York or L.A. and you didn’t know about some oppressed Iranian poet or an obscure theatrical reference she mentions she might just stop talking with you and turn away. Like I said, maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t get her.

In her favor, she’s been in some fine movies but that doesn’t mean that she’s been fine in them. Several cases in point I’ll go over here – Dave, The Truman Show and Breach. Let’s break ’em down.

I loved and continue to love Dave. Why wouldn’t I love it, given that it was the first “date” I went on with my wife in college? In Dave, Kevin Kline is thrust into the role of President of the United States when the man (the real President) he was doubling for has a massive stroke. Linney plays the Oval Office secretary that the real President was having an affair with when he had the stroke and her “fawning” and “relief” when the “President” returns to office ring hollow. You can tell that Dave is a little freaked out by her reaction and with good reason – he has no idea who she is and she’s chomping at the scenery. Not a good choice for a rather important plot point.

I also love The Truman Show and still think that Jim Carrey has the makings of an actual living breathing actor in him, if he can just get away from mainstream fare like Fun with Dick and Jane or Bruce Almighty. But in The Truman Show, Linney once again rears her bad-actor head, this time in the role of Meryl, Carrey’s television wife. She’s over-the-top skittish and not likable at all, and maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make her sympathetic in any way when she breaks down while Carrey interrogates her in their kitchen about his situation. The only good that could have come from that scene would have been if Carrey had killed Meryl with that jar of Mococoa she was holding.

And what can you say about her in Breach? It wasn’t a big money maker, but it wasn’t a bad movie at all, far from it. It was better than I thought it would be, but Linney plays tough-as-nails FBI agent Kate Burroughs, and she wasn’t a very good choice for the part. Get someone else, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, just don’t pick Linney to talk tough to Ryan Phillippe. It’s flat and silly and we know that she’s doing the one thing she doesn’t want you to know she’s doing : acting. She was just wrong for the part.

In her favor though she’s done some wonderful (or at least, good) films also where she too has been wonderful. You Can Count on Me, where she plays big sister to the way-cool Mark Ruffalo, is excellent, and she is too. She’s also great in Love Actually as the pathetically lonely Sarah who pines away for Rodrigo Santoro. She hits all the right notes as she tries to woo Santoro and take care of her mentally imbalanced brother. And while it wasn’t (any) good, The Life of David Gale featured her as an anti-death penalty advocate and she was very good. It always seems that the parts she’s best in are where she’s a pathetic little creature trying to get by in the world or fight for a higher cause. Unfortunately, you don’t get too far in Hollywood playing the same character over and over. 2Or maybe you can. Case in point – Robin Williams.

When Linney’s good and cast in the right character she’s great, but when she seems completely out of her league it’s embarrassing to watch. I just don’t “get” Laura Linney. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

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The Dead Cat Story

So we were sitting around our apartment in Waco, TX., circa 1993. Taylor was reading by the window, I was working on my Mac Classic at the table, Joel was watching television, Alan was gone. A cat was meowing loudly outside, very loudly, we could all hear it. That went on for a few minutes until Taylor got fed up and got up to scare the cat away. He opened the back door of the apartment and freaked the cat out. The cat darted away from our door and out into the street where it was immediately squished by a truck.

The truck driver stopped. “Was that your cat?”

Taylor replied, “No.”

The driver nodded and started driving again, leaving the squished cat in the street. We all went outside to look at the flat cat and then called our friends to tell them what just happened. Patrick, Josh and Willie were amazed by the story and how quickly it all happened.

Later I went with Patrick’s girlfriend Kim to find the Branch Davidian compound. The compound was outside of town, not in Waco as so many newscasters said. It was getting dark and you could see the spotlights that the FBI was using from miles away. We started driving, just following the lights. We never found exactly how to get to the compound, as the ranch was on several back country roads, but we had fun just driving around and looking for it.

Kim dropped me off at our apartment, and as I stepped up to the front door I noticed something in the doorway. There, with string tied around its two front paws and taped up to the inside of the doorway so it stood up, was the dead cat. It’s squished little body no longer bleeding, there was a scrawled sign reading “YOU KILLED ME” in red ink made up to look like blood.

I stepped over the cat and went inside, finding Joel and Taylor. I showed them the cat and we knew immediately who’d done this – Patrick, Josh and Willie.

Joel and Taylor carried the cat out to the garbage, then we called Patrick, Josh and Willie. They feigned innocence of the whole matter at first, but after hardly any interrogation they fessed up and said that they had done it. They’d thought it would be funny for us to leave our apartment the next morning on our ways to class and see the tiny crushed cat sitting there in our path.

It was about at that moment that we heard some banging around out at the garbage. We opened the door, while still on the phone, and peeked out at the garbage. There, dumping bottles and cans into the garbage, were 3 men in a truck. They continued to dump their trash until someone sneezed or something and they heard us. The 3 of them jumped into the truck and took off, very quickly. It was kind of strange, we thought.

And then we remembered the cat. We walked out to the garbage and, yes, the cat was gone. They’d taken a squished dead cat.

Probably going to use it in some satanic ritual or something, but the sickos had taken the dead cat.

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The First Supreme Court Case

In all matters constitutional, the Supreme Court rules on the laws of the land. As of now, Chief Justice John Roberts presides over a court consisting of himself, John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito. It was under John Jay 1Jay was nominated in 1789 by President George Washington as the first Chief Justice of the United States. He presided over the court until 1795 and was instrumental in establishing the internal procedures of the Supreme Court and setting legal precedents. that the first substantial case was decided by the Court.

In 1792, Alexander Chisholm of South Carolina, the executor of the estate of Robert Farquhar, attempted to sue the state of Georgia in the Supreme Court over payments due them for goods that Farquhar had supplied Georgia during the American Revolutionary War. In 1793, U.S. Attorney General Edmund Randolph argued the case for the plaintiff before the Court in “Chisholm v. Georgia“. Georgia refused to appear, claiming that as a “sovereign,” a state did not have to appear in court to hear a suit against it to which it did not consent.

The Court, in a 4-1 decision, found in favor of the plaintiff, with Chief Justice Jay concurring with Justices Blair, Wilson, and Cushing 2That would be John Blair, James Wilson and William Cushing., with Justice James Iredell dissenting. 3The Court has fluctuated in membership size over the course of the history of the United States. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the size originally at 6, but it was as high as 10 in 1863. With the Circuit Judges Act of 1869, the number of Justices was again set at nine (the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices), where it has remained ever since. The Court argued that Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution abrogated the States’ sovereign immunity and granted federal courts the affirmative power to hear disputes between private citizens and States.

In 1795, largely as a result of the Chisolm decision, the Eleventh Amendment was ratified, which removed federal jurisdiction in cases where citizens of one state or foreign countries attempt to sue another state. However, citizens of one state or foreign countries can still use the Federal courts if the state consents to be sued or if Congress, pursuant to a valid exercise of Fourteenth Amendment remedial powers, abrogates the states’ immunity from suit. 4The facts for this piece come from Ask Yahoo! and Oyez! The U.S. Supreme Court Media site.

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